April 8, 1999
|I woke up several times throughout the night. I was in
and out of my dreams and got up this morning feeling refreshed. A couple of dogs
walked by me as I was still lying in my sleeping bag. There was a gentle breeze and
a clanging of the flag pole rope. I heard two ladies talking as they were taking
their early morning power walk.
It was 5:15am when I got out of my sleeping bag and noticed it was another dry morning. The sky was very dark and cloudy as I headed out of town. Stopping at a convenience store to Gatorade and snacks, I met Herbert outside. "You on a journey?" "Yeah, to Alaska." I looked up from putting some things in my trailer to see him just staring at me in disbelief. He didn't say a word, just stared with his eyes wide and his mouth open. So I added "I started in Key West and..." He didn't say too much, I guess he just didn't know what to say.
Leaving the store at 6am on 8, I rode towards Calhoun City expecting very little traffic. It was quite the opposite with heavy traffic from 6am to 7am. Otherwise it was a nice ride. Arriving in Calhoun City, I stopped a man on the sidewalk to ask about the unnamed roads I wanted to take to 330W. At first he advised me not to try going that way and directed me north on 9. After mailing my journal entries at the post office, which wasn't open yet, the same guy flagged me down just as I started north on 9. He looked at me seriously and asked "How good are you with directions?" I assured him of my most excellent navigational skills :-) He then told me to head straight on old 8 and stop at the bait store to get directions to 330. The bridge was out on old 8 and I had to take several different roads through that area.
Riding on old 8 was very pleasant with no sign of cars, it was also very peaceful. I saw a pickup truck coming up behind me so I moved over to the right. The truck slowed down and drove beside me as the two guys in it began asking me questions. They'd never seen a cyclist before. A couple of real nice, good ole boy types, whose expressions looked as though they had just seen a UFO or something :-)
The bait store was just a couple hundred feet ahead and they drove on up. A I pulled up I was greeted by several others that wanted to check out my bike, trailer, and me. Everyone seemed a bit excited since cyclists never ride through here, let alone someone on a long bike expedition. I was given good directions and told that I need to stay in the historical part of Big Creek long enough to take pictures and see "the old Mississippi." Going up the road I found the historical section and the smallest post office I'd seen yet. I went in to buy some postcard stamps but they didn't have any. "We never get al call for them around here." I ended up buying 64, 5 cent stamps and put 4 on each postcard.
William ran the post office and has been there for 13 years. He too asked lots of questions and was very helpful. He also gave me a county map showing the roads. The map consisted of all the roads, but again, none are marked. I followed the route through the hilly backwoods areas and tried to use the map. When I realized I was lost I decided to keep going straight until I found someone to ask directions from. Along the way I passed a couple of bars tucked away in the middle of the woods, they had names like "Cooters" and "Rednecks." Finally I found a farmer, Eugene, and discovered that there was a turn I should have taken about 4 or 5 miles back. He looked at the map and had difficulty understanding it as well. "I'm a fireman and I should know all these roads." Most people around there just know their way around and use landmarks, not the names of roads. After another hour of biking, I stopped a guy in a small truck to make sure I was headed in the right direction. "It's about half a mile up the road."
Wooo Hooo! I Made It!!
It was indeed a very nice and scenic ride through there. I really enjoyed it, even if I did get lost.
Approaching Coffeeville, I saw a cafe and deli at the edge of town so I stopped and was greeted by some very friendly people inside. I ordered a chicken sandwich and tea then sat at one of several round tables that were in a row down the middle of the store. Wanting some sort of conversation, I decided to talk to the couple sitting at the table next to me, George and Pat. George is the only physician in the town of about 1000 people. We talked about some of the changes in healthcare and the increased paperwork. I think I may have talked a bit too much. When I don't talk much all day, I sometimes get carried away once I open my mouth :-)
I also met Elsie and Rita. Elsie owned the cafe until recently when she sold it to Rita. They were nice, charming people, and made a very tasty chicken sandwich!! I was glad I stopped.
Upon leaving I was stopped by a lady walking out of a very small building, it was the newspaper office. She said someone had called her from the Graysport area, where I was lost, and told her I was headed that way. Inside she asked some questions and I felt like I had stepped back in time. I noticed how old everything looked. There was one of those really old black typewriters on her desk, like those I've seen in antique stores. We went outside and she took my picture with a very old Rolleliex camera. She had to look down into the camera to take the picture.
Leaving Coffeeville it was still very cloudy and the wind was picking up, I just knew it would rain soon. Feeling strong and hyped after the tea I had at lunch, I headed west to the Tillatoba Recreation Area. After 72 miles, I still felt like I had plenty of energy and wanted to keep cycling. But being unsure of the road ahead, I decided to stick with my original plan and free camp here at the recreation area. It was a wooded area by the lake with 2 outhouses and one faucet. It was very quite and there was an older couple fishing on the shore and a guy on the lake in a skiff. Will and Lucille were the couple that was fishing. It was a bit difficult trying to talk to Lucille, maybe I was talking too fast. She mostly said "sho nuff" after anything I said. I asked if I could take her picture and she said "my hair to nappy for a picture." But Will was eager to have his picture taken and asked me to mail him a copy. I obliged and got his mailing address. We talked a bit about the area and how they both loved to fish. They go fishing every chance they get. Will said "it used to be every day." They were both nice, simple people, who loved to sit by the lake all day and fish...even if they didn't catch anything. There was a small dog I petted that I assumed was theirs. But after everyone had gone the dog was still there. He was a small black and white dog with tan around his eyes and had no tail. I'm pretty sure he was a stray and it seemed like he may have been abused. I decided to give him a name so I had something to call him. I named him "Buddy." He loved any attention I gave him but when I said "enough" he'd simply lay down and watch. "Buddy" would always keep his distance unless I invited him over. It was nice having him around for the evening after the place emptied leaving me alone. He slept about 10 feet from my tent that night. During the night I heard some leaves rustling near the tent and "Buddy" growled like he was protecting me. I looked out of the tent with my flashlight and found some frogs near the tent.
Today - 72.42 miles